ITHACA, N.Y. – Police found Cornell University student and Potomac native Shannon Jones, 23, strangled in her upstate New York apartment. Police said her boyfriend, 32-year-old Benjamin Cayea, confessed to strangling Jones during an argument. Cayuga Heights prosecutors have charged Cayea with second-degree murder.
During a police interview, Cayea told detectives he squeezed Jones’ neck with both hands until her face was blue and she had no pulse. According to charging documents, Cayea did not attempt to do CPR or call 911, but drove to a friend’s house.
Cayea later told police he didn’t think Jones was still alive when he left the apartment because “she was cold when he left.”
According to court documents, Jacob Ives, a friend of Cayea, received a phone call from Cayea, who he later described as hysterical, rocking back and forth and breathing heavily. Ives said Cayea told him that “he did it.”
“She would not stop coming at me, she would not stop yelling. I did it. I choked her,” Cayea said, according to Ives’ police statement.
Ives said Cayea collapsed on the floor, lying in a fetal position, and he was afraid Cayea would kill himself. Police found Jones’ body on the floor of a bedroom in the couple’s apartment wearing only a bathrobe. Cayea later apologized to police for “having to find her like that.”
Ives told investigators Cayea and Jones had a troubled on again, off again relationship for two years, during which time Cayea described Jones as emotionally unstable.
Ives said he didn’t believe Cayea was capable of hurting Jones because he was a Buddhist. Ives said he walked Jones home once but he didn’t know her well.
Jones is a 2009 graduate of Churchill High School. She was an upperclassman at Cornell’s College of Engineering. She was an independent major in engineering with interests in controls and avionics engineering in the field of aerospace. Jones was also a member of Teszia Belly Dance Troupe and had an interest in theater.
“Shannon had an infectious enthusiasm for exploring space and building our future in it,” Cornell professor Mason Peck said. “She helped figure out how to make Violet’s star tracker work, and when Violet launches next year and takes its first images of the stars, we’ll have Shannon to thank for it.”